It’s all too easy to be romanced by Montreal. It’s a city that will lure you in with its old world looks and elegant boulevards, quickly win you over with its French flair and bilingual charm and at the end of the day, wine and dine you like never before. But Montreal is also a modern character, eclectic for all its modern ways, cutting-edge art and vibrant festival culture. Feel the joie de vivre and get to know Montreal with this fabulous 48 hour itinerary.
9AM: Old Montreal
Feel the grandeur and glory of the Montreal of yesteryear come to life in the original city centre and cultural heart, Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal). Wander the cobblestone streets lined with charming old-world architecture or admire the character-laden streets on a horse and carriage ride. Pick up some breakfast and a cappuccino at one of the traditional French cafés along Boulevard Saint-Laurent, stroll the historic and scenic Vieux-Port (Old Port), enjoy the lively street performers at Place Jacques-Cartier and drop by the Marché Bonsecours (Bonsecours Market).
11AM: Place d’Armes
A highlight of Old Montreal, Place d’Armes is a magnificent square framed by some of the city’s finest and most visually arresting buildings. At the top of that list is the famously stunning Neo-Gothic Basilique Notre-Dame, with its breathtakingly extravagant interior and vibrant stained-glass windows depicting scenes from Montreal’s history. Other pieces of living history here to admire include the city’s oldest structure and a National Historic Site of Canada, the Saint-Sulpice Seminary, as well as Montreal’s first skyscraper and oldest bank.
Wander through the Chinese-style wrought-iron gates into Chinatown, on the cusp of Old Montreal, for a tasty Asian lunch. Spanning about five blocks, it may not be one of the biggest Chinatown districts in North America, but it’s full of authentic restaurants dishing up great food without the fuss.
2.00PM: Canal de Lachine
Montreal is dissected by over 310 miles of bike lanes, and one of the best sections to pedal is along the Canal de Lachine. Once an industrial waterfront area, it has since been transformed into a fascinating lush green area dotted with unique architectural gems, like Habitat 67, and offers no shortage of lovely waterfront views over the handlebars. Atwater Market and the St Ambroise pub make for great pit-stops to refuel and refresh along the way.
5PM: Underground City
Something unique about Montreal is the so-called ‘Underground City’ – a multi-level network of tunnels and stairs connecting shopping malls, metro stations, schools, offices, hotels and even concert halls – most of the city’s downtown areas and attractions, in fact. Duck down for a quick look or take your time to explore and see what you find.
Montreal has the most restaurants per capita in North America, so there’s no holding back when it comes time to dine. Downtown Montreal is a great spot to sample the banquet of fabulous eats whilst soaking up the colourful city vibes by night, from modern chic foodie hubs oozing atmosphere to cool but casual multicultural eateries and fanciful fine dining feasts.
9AM: Museum Quarter
Start the day with a big helping of art to go with a delicious breakfast in the area known as Quartier du Musée, or the Museum Quarter. Centred around the popular and impressive Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the streets radiating out from here are rich in private art galleries, high-end designer boutiques, international and antique shops, jewellers and exquisite fine dining options.
12.00PM: Le Plateau-Mont-Royal
For a taste of picture-perfect Montreal, take to the attractive and colourful tree-lined streets of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal – or simply Le Plateau, as the locals call it. A working-class-turned-funky area that thrives on creative and bohemian undercurrents, it attracts an eclectic mix of theatres, galleries, boutiques, cafes and great restaurants with varied multicultural influences. Wander the neighbourhood for a glimpse into the real Montreal before finding a spot that catches your eye for lunch.
2PM: Parc du Mont-Royal
Escape the city buzz and revel in the sprawling, leafy playground of Parc du Mont-Royal (Mount Royal Park), where trails perfect for walking, cycling and even horse riding wind past picnic-perfect grassy lawns, patches of wild clinging to the mountainsides and iconic monuments like the Cross of Montreal. Take in the panoramas from Kondiaronk Lookout or the romantic favourite, Observatoire de l'Est, or else relax by the serene waters of Beaver Lake. In winter, you can even cross-country ski or toboggan right here in the park.
4PM: St Joseph's Oratory
At the very top of Mount Royal stands Saint Joseph's Oratory, claiming one of the largest domes of its kind in the world behind St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. At its tip, it also touts the highest point in all of Montreal. But even from the top of the impressive staircase that cascades its way to the front door, which some pilgrims climb up on their knees, the city views are astounding. Feel the magnetism of this very special and much revered basilica, admire the treasures of the in-house museum and wander the lovely Gardens of the Way of the Cross.
7PM: Boulevard Saint-Laurent
Finish your 48 hours in Montreal back where you began, in Old Montreal. Feel the atmospheric stretch of Boulevard Saint-Laurent come alive by night and pick from the plethora of wonderful restaurants and cafes touting everything from steamed Tibetan dumplings to hearty bistro fare with a side of live Jazz music.
Other top attractions in Montreal:
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